Crossbow vs. Vertical Bow

Tactical Differences Between Crossbows & Compound Bows​

For years, many have claimed that the crossbow is superior to the compound bow and therefore should not be allowed in the regular archery season. Allegations that the crossbow is deadly-accurate out to a hundred yards making it nothing less than a rifle that shoots arrows are still common place among the uninformed.

It has also been claimed that the crossbow is unsafe, too easy to shoot and more efficient than compound bows. If all these assertions are indeed true, then it would seem that the crossbow does have a distinct advantage over its vertical brother.

Now those of you that shoot and hunt with a crossbow on a regular basis are fully aware that these claims are a frivolous attempt to discredit and ban a very practical hunting tool that has been proven to be a great asset to our hunting community. Firsthand experience has taught you that the crossbow is very comparable to a compound and in some situations, not up to par with the vertical bow.

Speed and Kinetic Energy

The ballistics of the majority of vertical bows are superior to the majority of crossbows. The mystical ingredient is the power stroke. Even though a crossbow has a heavier draw weight, the power stroke is much shorter. It is the power-stroke that generates the kinetic energy that is stored in an arrow as it is launched at its target.

Kinetic energy is the fuel that delivers the speed, range and impact to the arrow. The average power stroke on a crossbow is 14-inches compared to 25-inches on a compound. With the string pushing the arrow for an extra 10-11 inches, the vertical bow is delivering maximum kinetic energy far superior to that of a crossbow.

Understanding Compound Bows


Another claim made about the crossbows is that it is less safe than a vertical bow. Truth of the matter is that crossbows are just as safe as vertical equipment, if not more so.

Ohio has had a crossbow season for 33 years. The fact is that there are more crossbow hunters in Ohio than there are vertical bowhunters, yet the documented injuries from each bow are virtually the same. Each has approximately the same number of fatalities and the approximately the same number of injuries based on documented history.

How then, can anyone claim that crossbows are less safe than vertical bows? It would seem to me that those making such claims are either afraid of crossbows or ignorant about them, perhaps both?

Ease Of Use

Another area of difference that keeps surfacing is the fact that crossbows are too easy to shoot. If, by easy, one means easy to learn the basic mechanics of the tool and to become comfortable with using it, I must agree with the claim.

Taking The Crossbow Plunge

That is one of the redeeming things about the crossbow. In a half hour to an hour on the range, anyone should be able to have the basic mechanics down and be shooting tight groups at 20, 30 and even 40 yards. At that point, there will still be many rough edges to file down, but the shooter should have a firm grip on the basics.

However if “too easy” means it is too easy to use in the field and from the stand, then the person making that statement has never had a crossbow in their hands. The crossbow is heavy, cumbersome and awkward to handle in the stand compared to a vertical bow.

Crossbow Safety Tips

The physics of the crossbow make it difficult to steady when shooting, which makes the crossbow less accurate than the vertical bow. Documented final scores turned in on the range at IBO and NFAA tournaments (both allow the use of crossbows in their national competitions) by the pros definitely prove that the vertical bow is more accurate than the crossbow when shot freehand.

The “less accurate” fact is also why the claim that crossbows are more efficient is also untrue. The more efficient implement of the two is definitely the compound bow. When it comes to exhibiting a high ratio of output to input, the crossbow falls behind its vertical brother.

With a vertical bow second and even third shots are commonplace, but not with a crossbow. Greater distance, flatter arc and less kinetic energy are all reasons the crossbow is less efficient than the modern compound bow.


The similarities of the two, however, are very easy to see when one looks at the other side of the coin. They both shoot an arrow and they are both short-range weapons, for most users, 40 yards or less.

They are both fun to shoot bringing big grins and great adventure to those that are devoted to them. The both play a key role in recruitment of new hunters of all ages and both sexes, worldwide.

Bottom line is that whether you are into vertical archery or horizontal archery, they are both archery.

Daniel James Hendricks
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